Choose Locally Owned Shops

Spending my time and money more wisely

A well rounded diet for winter birds

I needed to buy some wild bird supplies since the woodpeckers at my feeder cleaned out the suet. I headed into town and thought I would quickly run into the local Canadian Tire store and be on my way. But we’re in COVID lock down.

No surprise. Most of the world is in lock down. The premier had announced an immediate lock down 4 days before Christmas that wouldn’t be implemented till after Christmas. Telling people to stay home but giving businesses time to reduce inventory on hand. (What kind of logic is that?)

In the five days before the lock down I kept forgetting to get some suet. I hadn’t thought about the change in protocol till I saw the curbside pick up signage.

So I went online to get myself into the queue only to find out that Canadian Tire would gladly fill my order within 5 to 10 business days. Well, that wouldn’t do as the woodpeckers had totally cleaned me out. A five day delay in getting supplies would not do.

So I went on line with Home Hardware. After I put one package of suet in my on-line shopping cart I got the message that I had to spend another $47.50 to complete my curbside pick up order. They would not risk the health and safety of their workers for orders of less than $50.00.

I’ve always wondered what a person’s health or safety was worth.

So I checked Home Depot. While they would sell me suet holders they do not sell the actual suet. I wondered what to do so that the woodpeckers would not starve or abandon my feeding stations. I couldn’t think of any other stores in town that would be able to serve my needs in a timely manner.

Then I remembered I had a membership at the Grafton farmers coop about 10 km east of town. I expected that they would carry suet. I gave them a call and made my request. I told them I would like five packages of suet, specifically for woodpecker but any other kind would be fine. I thought I would ask for five packages so I wouldn’t have to do another curbside pick up in the near future.

When they told me they could fill my order, I hesitantly asked if I could pick it up today. More precisely, if I could pick it up in 10 minutes. I got a heartwarming yes in response. When I arrived my package was ready. I paid and left the store.

Durham County Farmers’ Coop – Grafton

It seemed too simple and effortless. No waiting. No line up. No five to ten day delay. What the Big Box stores could not provide in service, the coop did seamlessly and with a smile. And the price was competitive.

Small shops have it over Big Box stores

During the lock down last spring, Home Depot and others stores like Staples would make customers wait a week or more to get their orders filled. That’s how long it would take for the supplies to come from the warehouse. They would not fill the order from the stock they had in the store because they wanted to have the store fully stocked once the Lock Down order was lifted.

I assume they were not familiar with the line, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

During the spring lock down I put in a gardening order at Canadian Tire. After a three day wait I got an email from them confirming that my order was ready for pick up. I considered that an acceptable turn around time. When I arrived I gave them my confirmation number and expected them to wheel my order to the car in a few minutes. Not so. I waited. I waited some more. The line up behind me grew. After almost a half hour they came out with my order.

The wait left me wondering. They either had trouble locating my order or they were busy filling my order of 6 items while I was waiting. So then why did it take 3 days before they notified me to come to the store?

My lesson learned

Buy local. Find a small store. They have the brains to do things right. How else do they survive the competition from the Big Box stores. Even if it cost a bit more to shop at a small locally owned store, at least I wouldn’t have to deal with the aggravation of seeing someone else’s disorganization being plagued on me and other sorry customers.

One of the biggest stores in town that is long gone ran on the slogan, “Because the lowest price is the law.”

The slightly higher price of the smaller shops is okay when you know that more of the money you spend stays in the community. That’s a key ingredient for building a thriving local economy.

The Cliff

Blomidin Provincial Park – Nova Scotia

My home

My welcoming place

Family, friends, strangers

Hospitality

Enjoying distant horizons

Taking in the ebb and flow

Rolling with the daily changes

Embracing the rhythm of the seasons

Basking in the joy of sunny days

Welcoming breezy nights

Marveling at the awe and wonder of the storms

The adrenaline rush of witnessing raw power

Great for the beans and carrots and tomatoes

One afternoon a storm blew in

Marveling at the raw power

From the security of my kitchen

Seeing the intensity grow

Into the night it raged

A hint of unease

Something was different

Wishing it to subside

Woke up to an eerie calm

All seemed fine… till…

The garden fence was gone

My summer shade tree tottering

The cliff

Too close to ignore

Never out of my mind

My haven

Will it stand?

The cliff

Too close for comfort

I watched the ebb and flow

I noted the daily changes

I tracked the seasonal rhythm

Sunny days came – missing my shade tree

Breezy nights happened – shuttered my windows

Always wondering

Growing unease

The cliff

Too close for comfort

As the horizon darkened

Listening to weather forecasts with a hint of concern

Just a shower or… will it rage…

The cliff

The cliff

Oh to once again bask in the warmth of sunshine

To once again embrace the changing seasons

Oh to once again run with the breeze on my back

The cliff

Cliff

liff e (read life)

iff… only

* Dedicated to Danielle

Jasper Hoogendam (c)

I Wouldn’t Trade 2020 For Anything

As I look back on the year I realize I had experiences that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I know that each year comes as a full package. We can’t pick and choose. Even the idea of picking and choosing is in itself ludicrous.

My List of Thanks

  1. Travel to Cuba
  2. Healthy granddaughter born
  3. Improved health
  4. A flourishing garden
  5. Opportunities to help
  6. etc.

It’s not the list of accomplishments or events that makes me thankful. The accomplishments are fine, but I’m thankful for the nuances of daily living. It’s in the context of daily living that I find myself repeatedly thankful.

Joy in the Nuances

That doesn’t mean I didn’t experience disappointments. It took a couple months before I could do a careful visit to see our granddaughter born at Easter. But we did get to see her. A few months later we witnessed her unusual baptism. A no contact baptism in a time of COVID. No less awesome and grateful to welcome a new member into our family.

My mother was hospitalized just before COVID started. I didn’t get to see her in person till 8 months later when the Long Term Care home she had moved into allowed additional visitors. Phone calls and video calls, well not the same, at least assured me she was being well looked after. Thankful that she was in a not-for-profit home that experienced two minor outbreaks but no hospitalizations or deaths.

How the Year Began to Unfold

At the end of January I was able to make a brief trip to Cuba. The highlight of this trip was experiencing what I called Five Star Hospitality. Once it is safe to travel again I hope to visit this family living in the mountains along the south coast.

There is something humbling when looking back on a year that many have described as ‘unprecedented’. While for many, and I empathize with them, much of that reflects experiences of a world turned upside down. Who could have imagined something happening that would bump the Australian wildfires off the January news cycle?

I am thankful to have found myself in a situation that allowed for flexibility. I had opportunities to plan and make personal and family decisions related to the changes happening all over the world. Many others have found themselves in confining and scary situations in dealing with the pandemic short of hopeful options.

Shortly after our return from Cuba it became apparent that travel abroad and even travel within the province was going to be very limiting. So with expecting to be home bound for the summer or even into the fall, we made plans. That was the start of the flexibility that we realized we had.

Being retired just looked a whole lot better. No jobs that put us into risks of exposure. No worries about job income or going through all the red tape of applying for CERB. For me life continued mostly changed for the better. Groceries got delivered to our front door. Other essentials arrived by mail or courier. Life seemed to become so much simpler. I didn’t even bother taking he snow tires off the car because it was hardly getting used.

I was thankful for a much simpler life. Since my ABI (acquired brain injury) social settings have been a challenge. Even deciding whether to attend a social event orr deciding when to bow out of a social event had become a non-issue.

I welcomed social distancing. I spent much less time recovering from social events. Social contact was now mostly limited to one or two people at a time. That is much easier than navigating a room full of people or conversation with a group of seven or eight people.

Gardening: Experiencing God’s Miracle

Knowing we would be spending much time at home, our general plans began to be tailored to fit this new and simpler reality. We decided to add a half acre to our garden. One might call it a bit more than a garden, but not really a farm. Somewhere in between.

A half acre would produce more vegetables than we needed to put up for the winter. We decided that all the surplus vegetables could be donated to the food bank. We didn’t realize how desperate some food banks would be by summer. We happily shipped three quarters of our produce to the Yonge Street Mission food bank. As a Christian organization they were given no COVID assistance from the federal government. (Unlike most food banks.)

Having a food bank to take the surplus vegetables is so heartwarming. In addition to knowing I’m helping feed people in need, it his heartening to know that none of the surplus vegetable were going to waste. I did my last delivery of fresh vegetables, yes fresh vegetables on December 15. Fresh vegetables picked the day before with my fingers risking frost bite. Vegetables don’t survive the frost unless you put a dutch angle on gardening. Kale, (Westlandse boerenkool) improves in flavour when it has gone through a few frost cycles. Black Magic and Red Russian kale also improves with frost.

I was reminded on one of my deliveries to the food bank how much my vegetables were appreciated. On one of my deliveries the food procurement manager commented on how fresh the vegetables looked. He was so pleased when he heard the greens had been picked just 3 or 4 hours earlier. By the end of the season I had delivered about 1900 lbs (860 kg) of fresh, edible vegetables. He was used to throwing over half of the donated vegetables into a dumpster. So much of what would be donated was beyond edible.

We set up a four foot by eight foot vegetable stand at the end of our driveway for Farm Gate sales. It didn’t take long for word to spread. The prices were rock bottom. By that point in the summer many people who were earning much less welcomed the affordable fresh vegetables. I also figured if vegetables are left too long on the stand they would wilt and have to be thrown out. So better to sell cheap and not throw stuff away.

So thankful for the freedom to roam the half acre while the province went into the first full scale lock down. No need to physically distance since not many people are too keen on hoeing and weeding. No need to wear a mask or use hand sanitizer. Several hours a day distanced from the stresses and worries of society while knowing I was doing my part to help in some small way.

It’s the growing that is simply awe inspiring. It was the first time I had been gardening on this larger scale. I had decided to propagate a wide variety of beans so I could grow a proper crop of new varieties the next year; Soybeans, Red Mexican, Orca, Tongues of Fire, Cranberry, Vermont Cranberry, Thousand to One, and Bruine Bonen (Dutch Brown Beans).

It is truly amazing to put seed in the ground and just have things growing. It’s like it magically happens. Much of the seed, tomato, radish, squash, and peas I had collected from the previous year. Growing vegetables creates a comforting sense of self sufficiency not to mention an avenue towards increased food security. Oh the wonders of propagating and growing.

As I was working in the garden preparing the soil, weeding or hoeing, or harvesting, I often thought about my grandfather. My grandfather was a market gardener who worked his four acre plot of land his whole life with his brother. As the summer progressed I was imagining glimpses of my name sake who raised 11 children on a small plot of land.

Health

The most dramatic change I experienced this year is changes in my ABI recovery. A couple years ago I got a hint of what kind of intervention therapy I needed to look for. A year and a half ago I read an article that confirmed I wasn’t looking in vain. The challenge was finding a therapist who was qualified and capable of guiding me through the protocols and monitor my progress.

I ending up working with a former colleague. For both of us having known each other for a couple decade helped in deciding to venture into unfamiliar territory. I never imagined that the Listening Therapy would affect such a dramatic and sudden change on my daily functioning.

To think that two sessions of one hour could turn a big part of my life right side up again. That in a year of so many things being turned upside down. The dramatic improvement within the first two sessions motivated me to follow through on the program. I was able to do over 100 self administered daily half hour or one hour sessions through the summer and into the fall. The follow up was to reinforce the improvements made in the first two hours as well as bring less dramatic, but gradual improvements to other areas of my daily functioning.

You can find the details of this journey in a 6 part series of blog postings which I named Tiniest Muscle with Real Pull. I started the Listening Therapy at the end of April. There was hardly a day that went by that I would pause and simply marvel at the change.

They say you don’t realize how much you value something till you lose it. Well, there’s a bit more to that in my experience. You realize even more how much you value something when you get it back.

In the five years since my ABI I had adopted a large number of accommodations. Making accommodations had become a given part of much of my life. The dramatic change was mostly related to getting my short term memory back. That’s when I realized how much short term memory has to do with almost every minute of the day. Maybe even napping and night time sleep. Doesn’t dreaming require memory? I reflected on the memory recovery in my post What’s the Deal with Short Term Memory.

Being able to itemize all the changes I experienced when I recovered my short term memory was simply awesome. There’s no words to describe the experience.

Seniors In My Life

This fall I have intentionally been in regular touch with seniors. I know, I’m retired so that makes me a senior. Yes I get the senior discounts and other perks. But I’m talking about ‘old’ seniors. My mother in law before she passed the 80 year mark had a word for ‘old’ seniors which I can’t repeat here.

My time with seniors this fall has been eye opening. I had committed to being available to them and see how they were faring as the pandemic continued to make changes in their lives.

I expected to hear of different challenges as I checked in on them. Not a word about challenges. What I did hear was how they were reaching out to others. I hear how they were adjusting quite well and able to cope with the changes. With the recent lock down which aborted their Christmas plans each one was unshaken. They reminded me that they were prepared to take the measures believing they they would get through it.

As I reflected on their responses I couldn’t help but be thankful for the outlook they were sharing. With their outlook they were able to reassure others. This is the generation that lived through World War 2. They had experienced and lived through, hunger, danger, loss of family members, uncertainty and more. But they had persevered and they know they will get through this.

In Conclusion

And so, I wouldn’t trade this year for the world. If it meant that this was the only opportunity for these experiences, I would forever have been deprived of a year that has given me some amazing blessings to savour. This is both blessings that I’ve have received and ways in which I could be a blessing to others.

They say, “Hindsight is 2020 vision.” That’s my 2020 vision of the year.

It’s now 2021. The year is still very young. We don’t know what this year holds. There have been so many lessons learned this past year. We have an amazing past to build on. All I want to say, Blessings to each one of you in the New Year.

I’m Flush With …

I was walking back to my car when I saw a strange sign. Get Your Flush.

Why would I want a flush? A flush of embarrassment is not something I would go looking for.

Maybe the store is offering a service to get something important cleaned and flushed out. Not sure what that would be.

Maybe the pandemic brought about an invention which would make disinfecting and sterilizing quicker, easier and without fuss.

Hard to imagine what someone sitting at home waiting for the lock down to end might have dreamt up something unique. Maybe someone’s boredom brought about some amazing creative idea. Or maybe I’m seeing the amazing outcome of ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’.

These were just some of the thoughts that went through my puzzled brain. As I took one more step I saw what was ‘around the corner’. The sign was wrapped around a light post. That’s when I saw that this was a reminder for a very common procedure that is recommended every fall.

Not Surprising

It made me realize how often we take a quick glance at an article or a story and miss the real message. How carefully do we read? Reading to understand what the person is wishing to share, even if the way they worded it isn’t clear on first glance.

My take away was to read to understand what others are hoping to share. When someone shares what’s on their mind they are looking to being heard and understood. This for me is a great footing on which to enter a new year, 2021.

I’ve seen the word ‘flush’ used as ‘he is flush with cash.’ Well, as the new year begins, may we be flush with patience. May we find ourselves flush with understanding and empathy for others. We don’t need to agree with everyone, but it is neighbourly to let them be heard.

I’d like to wish everyone blessings in the New Year. May each one of us seek to be a blessing to those who cross our path.

Happy New Year! Happy 2021 – whatever it might hold for each of us.

The Full Message … and … Full moon brightening the New Year

Assumptions about Consumption

I’ve been thinking about a number of assumptions that could have had unpredictable consequences for my ABI recovery. That doesn’t mean I’m being critical of the people who made the assumptions of which I’m making assumptions. Rather, I see it as a example of the type of life we’ve allowed ourselves to slip into.

It’s been some time now, going on three years, that I received a generous prescription of a controlled substance that I never really had a need for. However, there are reasons why I have it which incidentally has only partially to do with me.

Some time ago I had undergone a surgical procedure. It fortunately was a micro surgery procedure because the problem was diagnosed early on. It was assumed that my recovery would involve post-operative pain to some significant degree. Once the surgical procedure was completed I was given some meds for pain. Six hours later I was offered some additional meds for pain. Even though I mentioned that I was not experiencing any pain and indicated I didn’t need the meds I was encouraged to take the meds anyway. Being recently post-operative I didn’t have the presence of mind to decline. This being my first every surgery I was into unfamiliar territory.

Having a prescription in hand for a controlled substance did rouse my curiosity. A family member had filled the prescription for me before I realized it was a controlled substance. I wondered about trying one or two doses. I was curious about the feeling it would produce. There was a definite temptation to experience the effects. In truth it would be strictly for recreational purposes. But I could argue that I had obtained them through legitimate means. After considering the pros and cons I eventually decided against experimenting with it.

In the critical first few days following the operation I experienced occasional discomfort but on the whole I would say I experienced no pain.

Substance abuse stats

According to American Society of Addiction Medicine, 1.9 million Americans above the age of 12 have a substance misuse involving prescription pain medicine. Yes, the prescription I have fits that category.

Even if I had experienced a moderate amount of pain I would have decided against using the prescribed meds. The main reason I decided against the use of pain meds is because I was quite sure the potential side effects would be compounded by my ABI status.

Additionally after reading the five page information booklet accompanying the prescription I noticed that several side effects listed would complicate my recovery. (My family doctor once told me it’s not a good idea to read the whole list of possible side effect of any prescription drug. I care to differ as it’s my body.)

Assumptions

Acquiring and having this controlled substance involves a number of assumptions, both mine and the attending physician.

Assumption #1: With the high level of misuse of pain meds I would have expected a prescription to be offered only if I had reported a high level of pain that couldn’t be controlled by lesser drugs. The assumption was based on the expectation that I was a responsible patient.

Assumption #2: Having to contact the doctor in the event that my pain was intolerable would require an additional doctor’s consult and cause some delay in getting the required medication. The assumption was that this was streamlined for my comfort and benefit.

Assumption #3: Requesting a pain med prescription would have put additional demands on the doctor’s time. My assumption is that this was the main reason for the preemptive prescription.

Assumption #4: That I would be one of many patients who in the end would complain about the pain and demand something that would put me out of my misery. My assumption that most patients will request the pain meds.

Assumption #5: The prescription was given on the assumption that my likelihood of developing a substance abuse was considered very low to non-existent. Since I had never met the surgeon it is, in my opinion, assumption that the surgeon made while ignoring the statistics on pain meds addiction. This is my assumption about the very competent and capable surgeon who agreed to help me.

The Risk

Given the struggles I was dealing with at the time, the on again, off again pain and discomforts of dealing with ABI, I was a likely candidate for substance abuse. I had made a point of letting the surgeon know I was dealing with ABI rather than making the assumption that she would read it in my medical file.

What held me back from using the controlled substance was my awareness of the statistics on substance dependence in the general population. I did not want to gradually find myself with a challenge that would compete with my ABI recovery efforts.

However, the main reason I wasn’t interested in experimenting with the meds and risk becoming dependent on the controlled substance is that I was seeing gradual and noticeable improvement in my ABI recovery. Along with that I had a professional support team and a supportive family. These two factors gave me the will power that I could manage without a prescription.

Cashing in on the street value of the meds…. hmmm! Now there was something that wouldn’t affect me. Oh, wait. Not true. Actually, cashing in on the street value was only something I had jokingly suggested.

The Good Wives (Netflix) shows how quickly one can slide down that slippery slope.

Gleaning

Pushed Beyond the Margins

Gleanings at the edge of the field

The wheat fields waving…

… this land was made for you and me.

Woody Guthrie / The Travellers

Scouring the edges of the field

Gleaning the forgotten stalks of grain

Searching the margins of the crop

Food for tomorrow

Searching the margins of the field

The margins for the marginalized

A place for the poor

A foothold for the dispossessed

The margins offering potential

Where each kernel of grain

holds hope for tomorrow

able to produce eighty fold or more

Oh to possess such hope

The dream of abundance

Feeding an abundance of spirit

Dreams for a future

Gleanings for the birds

They neither toil nor spin

They have a role, a place

They are cared for unbidden

For the poor, entry forbidden

For the migrants access forbidden

The fatherless pushed beyond the margins

The dispossessed struggling to maintain their dignity

Pushed out of the margins

Beyond being marginalized

Margins for greater profit margins

The entitled controlling the means

The poor simply beholden

Forever indebted

Forever in debt

Pushed beyond the margins

Longing for a place

An ounce of compassion

Not the insult of pity

Longing to contribute

– Jasper Hoogendam (c)

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleaning of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 23:22 (New International Bible)

Finding the Social Mode

Calming the Vagal Nerve

This is the first real break I’ve given myself since starting the Listening Therapy. This is the first real break I’ve given myself since the dramatic change in my ability to function. (See “Tiniest Muscle with Real Pull“)

My spouse and I took a four day mid-week camping trip. It was a well timed trip because the weather was perfect. We arrived with no issues with the drive. Though it took me an hour to feel oriented and get over the unfamiliarity of the place. I got myself oriented to my sense of place by focusing on getting the tent set up. I prefer to do it alone so I’m better able to focus. It’s less demanding as well as avoiding the cognitive demand of coordinating with a second person.

It was an extended break. By extended break I mean four days away from home with no daily routines or demands from my tasks and goals. Three days of mostly reading and a solo bike trip of 45 km on the fourth day.

Once the campsite was set up we got the rain shower that had been forecast. Sometimes the meteorologists are right. Other than the rain shower that greeted us shortly after our arrival, we had great daytime temperatures for swimming and great night time temperatures for campfires.

I spent most of the first 3 days relaxing, taking a short dip in the lake but mostly reading. I had enough reading time to almost complete two novels. The only exercise I got was walking to the facilities an inherent part of camping and enjoying a bit of unicycle riding. The latter usually earns me an applause or two.

I was surprised that I didn’t get restless after a long stint of reading. I was also surprised that I wasn’t nodding off to sleep while reading. Both of these were a change from what has been happening to me far too often.

The camping trip was a clean break from the demands and routines of being at home. For four days there were no chickens to look after, no garden to keep up, no household chores to do.

By the third day I felt well rested and caught up on sleep. It struck me that I was sleeping longer at night and not taking a nap during the day. That was an improvement from my usual routine. I generally hold to the notion that the more energy I expend during the day, the better I will sleep at night.

By the fourth day I was awake by 6 am. I had decided the night before that I would take a bike ride if I woke up early. By 6:30 I was on the road for a 45 km solo bike ride. It was the first bike ride this summer as my half acre garden had been dominating my day. Just over two hours later I was back at the campsite ready for a second breakfast.

Something Changed

My four day break seemed to change something for me. My first hint was my solo bike trip. It was different from all the other cycling I have done since my TBI in 2015. I had logged over 18,000 km in the past 4 years. This trip was different. As I was cycling I realized I didn’t feel the same urgency. There wasn’t the sense of frantic energy. I say ‘frantic’ for lack of a better word.

Over the past four years I have not been able to bike at a relaxed pace. Every time I got on a bike I would push myself. I remember specific times while biking from Vancouver to Newfoundland in 2017. If I had a difficult time on a particular morning my response was to bike with more vigor and energy. One day after wiping out on my bike I was determined to get moving again. My response was to pedal harder, to increase my pace. Those were just two examples of many other times of how I my body responds to small or medium setbacks.

In looking back on the situations where I experienced set backs it would be more accurate to say I was responding to the setbacks with frantic energy. With what I’ve learned in the past three months I would suggest that my frantic response is related to being in a “Fight of Flight” mode. The “Fight or Flight” mode had become my body’s or my brain’s way of responding to unwelcome sensory input ever since my TBI in 2015.

My awareness recently of recognizing my propensity for a “Fight or Flight” response has characterized a lot of activities I have done over the past five years. I somehow wouldn’t or couldn’t limit myself to doing an activity at a moderate level. Time and again I would push myself too hard only to find myself in a recovery mode for a day or more. I would receive reminders from my OT (occupational therapist) to plan for a more moderate pace. She would tell me to be satisfied if I completed two or three activities even if I thought I could accomplish five or six things that day. And I would acknowledge the importance of the advice.

Recognizing “Fight and Flight”

I learned recently that much of the neural fatigue was linked to my autonomic system going into a “fight or flight” mode as a result of misinterpreting sensory input from my environment. The autonomic system would not allow my vagal nerve to find a state of calm.

* (For a down to earth description of how the body responds to trauma and goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode see the video on The Polyvagal Circle. I think you will find Mathias Thimm’s 22 minute presentation an eye opening experience.)

Every time there was sensory input that put my autonomic system into “fight or flight” mode it would tax my adrenal system. Because the autonomic system works subconsciously I was not aware of what was causing a drain on my adrenal gland and therefore causing fatigue.

Since working through the SSP (Safe and Sound Protocol) the occurrences of “Fight or Flight” have reduced in frequency and possibly even in intensity. While there has been a change in the frequency of “Fight or Flight” responses, I’m starting to realize I needed to change my general response to situations that cause “Fight or Flight”. Without a change in behaviour my improvements will be limited.

Mindfulness

I have been coached to practice mindfulness. While much can be gained by practicing mindfulness, I first needed to develop an awareness of what was happening in order to make sense of what my body was doing. My four days of relaxing made me recognize a need to change my ‘go to’ behaviour of the past five years. I needed to let go of my ‘go to’ response of pushing harder when faced with challenges.

My focus is gradually, through intentional effort, moving towards responding with acceptance when faced with a challenge. Learning to choose to relax rather than fight the setback caused by unwanted sensory loading. I’m moving towards a sense of embracing the moment and give it time to pass.

As an example, my response to unwanted sensory loading from being in a car for several hours was to complete my trip with 30 or 40 km of cycling in order to help my recovery. In hindsight I don’t know how else I could have coped with the challenge at that time. Since working through the SSP Protocol the challenge of long car rides has almost completely resolved itself.

Since the camping trip I have managed to sleep longer each night. I have also been able to function with either no nap during the day or a 15 minute power nap. I was intentional about the 15 minute nap mid day when I was having a difficult time moving forward.

So here’s my new goal; sleep longer and sleep less often.

Listening Therapy

I continue to work with my Listening Therapist. The ongoing Listening Therapy is to reinforce the gains I have made. The intent is to continue to strengthen the Stapedius muscle so my ear sends clear signals to my brain. The clear signals helps to calm the vagal nerve, a key part of the autonomic nervous system.

The goal is to move my state of being from “Fight or Flight” mode to one of “Social”. That doesn’t mean I won’t go into “Fight or Flight” mode, but rather having the “Fight or Flight” response reserved for real situations which call for a “Fight or Flight” decision.

Tiniest Muscle with Real Pull (Part 6)

Training Cucumbers to Follow Their Line.

It is three months since I started my Listening Therapy with Rewired Learning. It has been three months that I have committed from thirty minutes to an hour a day working through a series of protocols.

Those who have read my first post in this series know the reason why I’ve been so diligent in following the Listening Therapy. The initial dramatic change was a significant factor not to mention my tendency towards tenacity when faced with challenges.

Speaking of tenacity. One of the challenges that was high on that list was cycling from Vancouver BC to St. John’s Newfoundland, two and a half years after my brain injury. Though the ‘cheering’ and daily support made that challenge easier than other challenges I’ve dealt with since my injury in January 2015.

Since starting the Listening Therapy I’ve noted various changes in my ability to navigate my daily routine. Having better short term memory, greater physical endurance, and improved focus and concentration are just some of the improvements.

Sleep: A Key Improvement

During most of my adult life I could fall asleep on cue. I could count on getting a full night of sleep unless other demands got in the way. Getting proper sleep has evaded me since my ABI injury in January 2015.

At one point in my recovery I was recommended to use the Four Square Breathing technique to help me get to sleep. The technique is intended to regulate and calm the autonomic nervous system. It calms the vagal nerve, slowing down the heart rate putting a person into a better condition to induce sleep. (I found practicing Four Square Breathing improved my lung capacity – not a bad idea during this time of COVID 19.

Some time later, on suggestion of my OT and recommendation of my family doctor I had signed up for a sleep study in November 2019. That was five months before starting my current Listening Therapy.

Sleep Study

During the initial five month since starting the Listening Therapy I have experienced some improvement in my sleep. The improvement translated into being better able to function each day. The main improvement was averaging an extra hour of sleep each night. With improvement in my sleep my daily endurance had improved.

Several family members have commented on the improvement in my daily functioning. My day time naps became shorter and sometimes optional.

Prior to starting the sleep study I would experience different sleep patterns. At times I would fall asleep rather quickly only to wake up within the hour and be wide awake for the next hour or more. It was like getting a power nap, but at the wrong time of the day. Not very helpful.

Other times it would take an hour or more before I would fall asleep. When that happened I would get up after an hour and read till I got sleepy. I would usually sleep on the couch because walking back to bed would make me wide awake again. I would often wake up early and be unable to get back to sleep. In hindsight, the night time and early morning wake up could best be described as a ‘startled response’. It’s as if the ‘fight or flight’ response for some reason would kick in at most inopportune times.

With the sleep study it was determined that I have mild to moderate sleep apnea. I was issued a CPAP machine. Once I became accustomed to the CPAP machine I was sleeping better and longer.

The draw back with using the CPAP machine was that I was waking up feeling zoned out and groggy. It was like my brain was reluctant to start working. It was like being unable to get out of my sleep mode. As far as waking up and alertness the pendulum had swung too far in the other direction. Not helpful.

Effect of Listening Therapy on my sleep

Once I started the Listening Therapy I was gradually waking up much more alert. About a month and a half into the Listening Therapy I was noticing that the early morning groginess was leaving me and I was moving into an area of feeling like I had a good night’s sleep. Despite the improvement with the use of the CPAP I was still napping on average once a day.

The longer I have been working with the Listening Therapy the fewer times I have been waking up during the night. The reduced frequency of waking up in the night coincided with the reduction in my ‘Fight and Flight’ responses. While the likelihood of causation is there, the correlation does not necessarily assume causation between Listening Therapy and fewer interruptions with sleep.

Sensory Overload

Since starting the Listening Therapy I have been able to better manage my sensory loading. My incidences of sensory overload has been reduced. Also the intensity of the side effects when dealing with sensory overload have eased up.

Prior to starting the Listening Therapy I would regularly experience sensory overload. I had worked with an OT (occupational therapist) for a couple of years to learn to avoid sensory overload. As the Listening Therapy contributed to calming my vagal nerve, the frequency of experiencing sensor overload and the intensity of the symptoms have reduced. Nevertheless, I need to be mindful of managing my exposure to sensory input that causes overload.

My sleeping pattern is the first thing that is affected when I experience sensory overload. Suddenly my sleeping time gets cut much shorter, going from six or seven hours a night to three or four hours a night. Along with experiencing shorter nights there is an increase in the number of naps and length of naps I need in order to get through the day.

During my recovery from sensory overload I’ve noticed my sleep time gets reduced because I get restless. I’ll wake up either because I’m restless or I’ll wake up and not be able to get back to sleep because I’m restless. The same restlessness shows up with my napping times. The naps will vary in length but I’ll wake and find myself restless.

The best remedy for restlessness is to get up and choose a physical activity that is repetitive. Since it’s summer, with gardening it is easy to find a task that fits that description; hoeing the beans, pulling weeds, tying the tomatoes, or training the cucumbers.

The longer I’m engaged in the Listening Therapy the better my sleep pattern is getting. Having moved from an average of five hours a night to seven hours a night is very encouraging. Waking up feeling much more alert is a definite bonus.

I was proud to clock a nine hour night recently. This happened after dealing with several short nights while recovering from sensory overload. Once I had been clear of the side effects I was able to enjoy a long and blissful sleep.

Prior to starting the Sleep Study it could take me more than an hour to fall asleep. I had a rule of getting out of bed and reading till I felt sleepy if it took me longer than an hour to fall asleep. This would usually result in sleeping on the couch, because walking back to bed would wake me up and I would have to start the process all over.

After starting to use the CPAP machine I would stay in bed even if it took me an hour and a half to get to sleep. Since starting the Listening Therapy it rarely takes me even a half hour to get to sleep.

Waking Up

I still experience challenges with waking up. Some of the Listening Therapy protocols leave me feeling like I had an extended physical workout. I will wake up in the morning feeling stiff and sore.

On the mornings that I’m feeling stiff and sore I find it difficult to work through my stretching exercises. The amount of effort it takes makes me feel like I’m suddenly 10 years older. Not a great feeling.

Once I would get through the stretching exercises I would be good to go. My endurance during the day would be fine. All would be fine until I stop for a break and had been sitting for twenty minutes or more. Then I would experience stiffness and muscle pain as I got up and tried to walk. I would have the same issues when getting up from a nap.

It took me awhile to see the connection between doing certain Listening Therapy protocols and the muscle aches and stiffness. In looking back on the improvement in my overall functioning, I would say, “No pain, no gain.” I’m willing to accept some of the downsides while working towards an overall improvement.

As I worked through some of the Listening Protocols, the changes, the improvements in my brain functioning would affect the rest of my body. That shouldn’t come as a surprise because one’s body and one’s brain are inextricably linked. Go figure. How could the one function without the other?

At this point in my Listening Therapy I think I’ve worked through some of the hardest adjustments. In the same breath I would say I have also seen my most dramatic improvements early on with this intervention. Now my focus is on strengthening and retaining the improvements. Once again having a better night’s sleep is a real blessing in this part of my journey of recovery.

Oh, how life looks so much brighter waking up to a summer morning after a restful and refreshing night.

(c) Jasper Hoogendam

Tiniest Muscle with Real Pull (Part 5)

Growing Climbing Bean Requires Planning

What does Memory Recovery Look Like?

Having recovered my memory in such a dramatic fashion has left me pondering various aspect of Memory. Pre-ABI, when my memory served me well I never paid attention to it. I happen to have excellent recall. I would remember names a month later after meeting a person for the first time. However, my memory for sequence of time was not always my strong suit.

There are so many different aspects to memory. But it is the aspect of memory that has improved my executive functioning that has been the game changer.

Getting my memory back has also given me some glimpses into how memory works. At least how it works for me. It has highlighted various aspects of how memory shapes one’s experiences and one’s relation to these experiences.

Waking Up

One would assume that one starts the day by simply waking up. Either the alarm goes off or in my case somewhere around 6 am I just wake up. If I’m in a state of agitatation due to sensory loading from the previous day I wake up at 5 am or earlier. If I’ve had a demanding day I wake up an hour or so later than usual.

Prior to my dramatic memory recovery I would wake up by opening my eyes. Nothing spectacular. However, in looking back my brain would still be half asleep. It would feel like my brain refused to take in much of anything in the first half hour or so. No I’m not a coffee drinker waiting till my morning fix kicks in. It was like my brain wouldn’t get started.

Now, when I wake up and open my eyes, my brain is immediately active. I notice that I’m think back on some of the highlights of the previous day. I’m thinking about the new day and what I hope to do. I find myself forming the initial plans for the day.

Since it’s gardening season I consider what needs to be transplanted, what area needs to be hoed or watered later in the day. Or whether things are fine and I’ll take a day to do something different. Finding myself making a general outline for the day is new and rather unfamiliar territory.

Prior to my dramatic memory recovery the process of thinking ahead or the casual planning just didn’t happen. I wasn’t even aware that it wasn’t happening. My brain just wouldn’t go there. It wasn’t a matter of just ‘telling’ myself that I need to make a plan. When I did make a plan I would forget once I got up. Something would distract me. It was a matter of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. So often at the end of the day I would comment on something that I had totally forgotten to do. It might have been a fleeting thought on waking or at some other point in the day and then it just faded without a trace.

What Has Actually Changed?

If you read my first blog on this series, Tiniest Muscle with Real Pull, I described the change following my first two hours of Listening Therapy. The Safe and Sound protocol that I was working through somehow, almost magically, brought back a major part of my ability to remember.

In fact I had fast tracked the Safe and Sound protocol. The intent was to listen for 30 minutes a day giving time for the necessary changes to happen. I covered the first two hours in two days. The four days would have given me extra time to have my body take in the healing effects of the Listening Therapy.

The Safe and Sound protocol focuses on exercising the stapedius muscle. That muscle is a critical link in the chain of links between the eardrum and the brain. By improving the muscle tone of the stapedius muscle, the brain is getting a more accurate interpretation of the sounds in a person’s environment. With poor muscle tone with th estapedius muscle the brain is getting sounds in the frequency range of Fight or Flight sounds rather than socially engaging sounds. With improvement in the sound frequency range the brain has room to do more of it’s normal or social functions. Receiving sounds in the frequency range that signals normal social activity the brain has less of a tendency to go into sensory overload or into a state of alarm.

The Black Hole is Fading

Once my brain was no longer jumping into Fight or Flight mode unexpectedly several times an hour, (not that I was consciously aware of it) my brain could actually pay attention and retain what I wanted to remember. In other words my autonomic system wasn’t getting hijacked several times an hour, creating fatigue and distracting me from my memoary and plans. In that way shutting down my executive functioning.

When I am in emergency mode, encountering Fight or Flight my brain simply reacts to what was happening in my environment. It leaves me with very little capacity to plan. When my planning is regularly interrupted only the simplest of plans work. Anything more complicated or multi-step such as problem solving gets derailed.

By regularly going into Fight or Flight mode I would very easily get distracted. If I was on my way to fetch something, and an alarm was triggered in my autonomic system, I would see something that needed attention and forget what I was planning to do. I would simply react and deal with what ever had my immediate attention. Needless to say, what I had intended to do was suddenly no where on the horizon. I would often not even be able to recall it if I tried. It’s like it disappears into a black hole.

Is There a Downside?

Living with a dramatic improvement of my memory does have a downside. Are you surprised? You might be wondering how something that spectacular would have a negative side.

I was asked a couple years ago when my sleep pattern was much more disrupted than it is now, what goes through my mind when I can’t sleep. The question seemed odd because while I’m lying awake nothing of any consequence really goes through my mind. Pre-ABI I never thought that was possible.

I realized that when I lay awake at night my mind was mostly blank. I did not think back on what happened during the day. My inability to plan seemed to run parallel with my inability to reflect on events and related consequences. There was no regret of what I, pre-ABI, would have considered to be bad planning. In fact I didn’t really get annoyed when I was lying awake. I just considered it inconvenient.

I dealt with the inconvenience with a simple rule. If I don’t fall asleep after being in bed for an hour I simply get up and read till I’m ready to fall asleep. If I wake up in the middle of the night and it takes me more than an hour to get back to sleep, I do the same things. I simply get up and read till I’m ready to fall asleep.

Since my dramatic memory recovery my night time waking experience has changed. I will now replay past experiences both recent and otherwise. Other times I’ll start planning what I hope to do in the morning.

Occasionally the ‘midnight rat begins to gnaw’ as some would refer to it. Reliving past regrets or decisions is back. Fortunately not too often. Since I’m once again able to plan, I’m also able to commiserate about plans that did not go well. I must say, that’s a small matter compared to the major benefits of improved memory.

Momentary Losses

The dramatic improvement in my memory still gets very easily disrupted. When I experience sensory overload, whether that is overload from cognitive demands, emotional overstimulation, or chaotic social settings, my working memory, my executive functioning shuts down. Suddenly I’m back to serious forgetting. Suddenly my planning isn’t happening, or it is happening very poorly.

It’s not a matter of having lost what I’ve gained. Once I’ve gone through two or three days of recovery and the sensory overload has cleared, my memory and executive functioning is back.

Reinforcement

My ongoing work with Listening Therapy is to reinforce the gains I have made. The goal is to get to a point where the sensory overload, be it cognitive, social, or emotional doesn’t happen or doesn’t cause significant set backs.

I continue to be directed by my Listening Therapist as I’m working through new protocols. Each new protocol is based on how I respond to the listening sessions.

Summary Thoughts

What I find fascinating about my memory recovery is my opportunity to reflect on how the brain works. Going through the changes makes me more aware of the Before and After contrast, Pre-ABI and present. That in turn gives me a glimpse of what has changed. After more than 5 years of adjusting to a ‘New Normal’ (which is not normal and never will be totally normal) I’m being once again reacquainted with much of the ‘Old Normal’ and seeing how it contrasts to the past 5 years.

About 10 years ago I read Lisa Genova, Left Neglected. Following a brain injury from a MVA the main character Sarah lost awareness of the left side of her body. Whatever was on her left side just didn’t exist for her. She did not know she even had a left hand. The brain could not comprehend that.

I now have a glimpse of what Sarah was experiencing. It wasn’t a matter of ‘telling’ her brain that the other half of the world did exist to her left. It’s not a vision issue. It’s just not part of the brain function. For Sarah, whatever appeared within her range of vision out of left field came as a complete surprise.

I compare Sarah’s challenge to a discussion on being totally blind. Being blind is not the same as being blindfolded. Being blind is not a matter of just ‘seeing’ black. If you are blind, I’m told, when it comes to vision there’s just simply nothing there.

As I go through differen stages of recovery I often wonder, “How many mysteries does the brain hold?”

Tiniest Muscle with Real Pull (Part 4)

I’ve been working with my Listening Therapist for a few weeks. It’s been a growing experience. While the initial dramatic gains were a great motivator, it takes diligent work to carry out the therapy protocols.

I’m finding it’s required me to make it a priority in planning my day. Even if I do the hour or half hour of listening late in the day, it’s still a priority. I’ve experimented with the time of day to see if that makes a difference.

I’ve generally chosen to do my listening in the evening since that’s the time of day that I’ve generally felt most calm. It’s the time of day that the challenges of the day, if I’m in a recovery phase, have the least bearing on me.

More than a walk in the park

Once I experienced the initial gains additional listening protocols have been set up to reinforce the gains I have made. As my ears and various parts of my brain are adjusting to the changes created by the Listening Therapy, the rest of my body has not been taking a holiday. The listening therapy has affected my body in a numerous ways, just as my original injury affected me in numerous ways.

It’s as if my body is going through a major reset after five years of adjusting to living with an ABI (acquired brain injury). The reset can be compared to a doctor having to reset a bone that has not healed properly. The process involves what looks like a setback in the healing process. Fortunately, as I outline below, the adjustments are much shorter and much less intense than the five years of recovery.

I have recognized seven areas where I have experienced a reset which has been followed by remarkable improvement.

7. Muscle Weakness

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed that my level of strength has dropped off. I wasn’t aware of the change initially since I’m used to having bad days mixed in with good days. But the loss of strength has been quite consistent for a few weeks. I notice I’m not able to lift or pull with the same intensity that I am accustomed to.

At times the loss of strength would result in dropping something I thought I could lift. At least I didn’t break any family heirlooms. Other times I would need to use both hands when I otherwise could do the task single handed. And then there are some tasks I have put off because of the physical effort required. Even initially these issues weren’t worrisome as I’m used to experiencing unexpected physical changes.

One explanation I was given made sense to me. With my brain receiving signals through my ears of a more social nature, I wasn’t slipping into ‘fight or flight’ mode as frequently. The ‘fight or flight’ mode would be triggered by the autonomic system when the brain receives sounds in the frequency range that signals an alertness to danger.

The Listening Therapy is calming the autonomic system resulting in fewer transitions in and out of ‘fight or flight’ mode. This means my muscles aren’t in constant tension ready to react to alerts from the brain.

6. Headache

I was a few days into the listening activities before I took note of my headache. My headaches have varied over the past 5 years. Initially I was in constant headache mode. Only the intensity would vary. Since using over the counter medication didn’t alleviate the discomfort I decided it was best to leave it. Over time the headache became intermittent. At that point in my recovery I used it as a gauge to monitor my activity level.

After starting the Listening Therapy it did take me a while before I realized I was experiencing headaches on a rather consistent level. While they were low grade, the discomfort would become more noticeable when I got tired or wasn’t distracted by some activity.

Now, after about a month I feel like I’ve turned a corner on that front.

5. Vision Issues

Since starting my Listening Therapy activities I have been experiencing issues with my eye sight. I started to re-experience ghosting.

Ghosting is a condition in which images seem to have a shadow. When looking at black lettering I will see a grey shadow as part of the lettering. This is most noticeable with road signs because I know I’m looking at plain block letters. Other signage might have a shadow to create a three dimension effect. So I can’t detect ghosting as easily when looking at store front signs or lettering on vehicles.

When I’m experiencing ghosting lights can appear very different. Rather than seeing a pin point of light I will see an elongated light, sometime stretching horizontally while other times stretching vertically. When I have a severe situation of ghosting the light will stretch vertically and horizontally creating a Christmas tree shape.

4. Tinnitus

I have been aware of an increased frequency of experiencing ringing in my ears, also called tinnitus. Apparently this is not uncommon when working through the listening therapy. I had gone from dealing with tinnitus 24/7 for the first couple years following my injury, then intermittently and finally it seemed to be almost completely cleared.

The recurrence of tinnitus is expected to be temporary side effect of the listening activities.

3. Neural Fatigue

One of the benefits the Listening Therapy was expected to deliver is dealing with less fatigue. Since the ‘fight or flight’ triggers were being reduced there would be less cause for fatigue. (Let me just point out that physical tiredness following a strenuous physical workout is quite different. Physical tiredness is invigorating because it sends a good feeling through the body as well as building momentum for inducing sleep.)

Off and on since starting the Listening Therapy activities I’m finding myself dealing with fatigue more frequently. That is not surprising because the therapy is changing the way the brain is receiving sensory input. The changes are demanding on the brain.

When starting the Listening Therapy I was advised to reduce my other daily activities. Since I was in the middle of setting up the garden I have continued to do what needed to be done. Call me non-compliant on that level. The advice was for my benefit and comfort.

Very recently I feel I’ve turned a corner in this area as well. While having said that I don’t know whether I will hit another patch where my level of fatigue will increase for a period.

2. Emotional Sensitivity

I am experiencing a higher level of emotional vulnerability. Hearing of hurtful experiences has once again made me more easily prone to tears. As the Listening Therapy opens up different areas of my brain, sensitivities from the past will influence my daily functioning.

This increased emotional sensitivity comes during a week when “Black Lives Matter” is receiving significant media coverage. I’m confronted with the hurt that surrounds this matter whether it’s video clips, news articles, radio talk shows or documentaries. It’s the personal accounts and the long term affects that hits me hardest. While I want to be better informed I know I need to ration my time and counter balance my day with other topics.

1. Heat Exhaustion

The first summer after my TBI it became apparent that I could not handle the heat the way I have other summers. I needed an air conditioner just to exist or at least if I expected to be somewhat comfortable. I am curious how the Listening Therapy will affect my tolerance for hot weather. I’ve seen some indicators that there is potential improvement. I’ll have to wait till the weather starts to heat up in July to find out more.

On Reflection

While the listening activities are enjoyable, the Listening Therapy is not a walk in the park. I find the music enjoyable with a wide selection of classical composers. I particularly find the Gregorian Chants enjoyable. They give me a sense of grounding with the resonating overtones. They remind me of my tendency in the past five years to slip into humming when my body was moving into sensory overload. The vibrations set up by humming I found out recently works because it calms the vagal nerve.

I do prescribed physical exercises for fifteen minutes, as part of the Listening Therapy, during most of the daily one hour listening sessions. Outside of the fifteen minute activity the Listening Therapy seems for the most part to be a passive activity. Meanwhile my body is working hard as it absorbs the sounds and makes healing changes in my vestibular and cochlear areas of the middle ear. As the ear is being conditioned to find a proper balance between air conduction and bone conduction my body is adjusting to the changes as the improved quality of the sensory input reaches my brain.

The Listening Therapy is a personalized series of applications using the Tomatis Method. This method provides a natural approach to neurosensory stimulation. The method was developed by Alfred Tomatis to improve people’s motor, emotional and cognitive skills. In my case the emotional and cognitive challenges have been the most persistent following my TBI (traumatic brain injury).

The Tomatis Method is intended to improve the listening potential of the brain. The effectiveness of the method is based on the understanding that 80% of the brain’s stimulation is connected to the ear. The Tomatis Method has been refined and improved on since the 1950’s.

The Tomatis Method recommends a rest period of a few weeks after completing 18 hours of Listening Therapy. This for me speaks to the profound changes the body; the brain, the ears and the rest of the autonomic system is adapting to. The rest period is an opportunity for the natural healing to take place following the momentum created by the Listening Therapy.

How I Got to This Point

Within a couple months of my TBI, my daughter directed me to two formative books by Norman Doidge. The books deal with the idea that following a brain injury one can experience dramatic healing. He demonstrates the amazing potential for the brain to heal. He uses the term ‘neuroplasticity’ to label the process the brain goes through. The first one I read was “The Brain that Changes Itself”. The second book is “The Brain’s Way of Healing”.

While I believed that Norman Doidge’s idea that the brain can be healed I did not know where or how to begin. That started to change for me about a year ago. A friend directed me to an article of a 51 year old male who had sustained a TBI through a MVA (motor vehicle accident). His challenges very much overlapped the challenges I have been dealing with. I started to inquire about a therapist who could set me on the path of healing.

Eventually I found a Listening Therapist, also known as a Listening Consultant who was prepared to work with me. The Listening Therapy is based on the Tomatis Method, designed to assist children with learning issues. It was also designed to assist children on the autism spectrum. Using the Tomatis Method to provide support for people with a TBI is a more recent application of the method. The Tomatis Method coincides with the idea of neuroplasticity developed by Norman Doidge. I had found the catalyst, the intervention I needed to affect the changes that could make neuroplasticity a reality for me.

In various ways my Listening Therapist and I are working together to design and refine the protocols based on the feedback I provide. I’m finding myself on a journey that I had never imagined. I must admit, it is one exciting journey.

The journey is reflective of gardening in the sense that it all starts with a ‘seed’ of an idea. Given the right conditions, and finding the right environment seeds will burst with growth. Given the proper care and making the appropriate adjustments plants will grow and in due time bear fruit. I find it an interesting coincidence that I’m working through the therapy as the same time that I am developing a half acre vegetable garden, a garden interspersed with some flowers giving the practicality of growing vegetables colour and character.